Volunteer Stories - Timothy Newman
13 February 2021
We are back with another of our Volunteer Stories. This time we have Concorde steward and Torchlight Tour guide Timothy Newman.
I have always been interested in aeroplanes, cars and motor racing, so it was inevitable I would end up volunteering at Brooklands, where I am a Concorde steward as well as leading Torchlight Tours and general museum tours. In addition, I have discovered I have some minor family links with the museum.
It all started with my father, who was a motor racing fan in the 1930s, and visited Brooklands several times. (I also remember him telling me about the Mercedes‐Benz and Auto Union GP cars he saw racing at Donington in the late ‘30s. He described them as ‘cars from another planet’.) His hero was ‘Bentley Boy’ Sir Henry ‘Tim’ Birkin, and he gave me a copy of his autobiography. I am fairly certain this is why I am called Tim. Therefore, I was interested to learn that the Bentley 4½‐litre in the ERA shed was raced by Tim Birkin at Brooklands.
In World War II, my uncle flew Wellingtons (not R for Robert) and later Lancasters, and his father(my grandfather) worked at the Hawker factory in Langley, near Slough. Having studied engineering at university, I joined British Aerospace at Kingston (always known locally as ‘Hawkers’), working in the Structural Dynamics section with such problems as flutter, buffet and environmental vibration on Harrier, Hawk and F‐35 aircraft among others. One particularly memorable assignment, in 1988, involved spending nearly two months seconded to McDonnell‐Douglas at Long Beach, southern California, supporting the T‐45 flight trials, this being the U.S. Navy version of the Hawk trainer. A tough job, but someone had to do it!
The Kingston site had a good sports and social club, and around 1980 I once had the honour of playing mixed doubles tennis against former P1127 and Harrier chief test pilot Bill Bedford and his secretary. I am always reminded of this when I pass the museum’s P1127 and see his name on the nose landing gear door.
In the mid‐1980s there were rumours that the Kingston site would close and that we would be moved to BAe Weybridge (i.e. Brooklands). In the event, the opposite happened, Brooklands closed and some staff came to Kingston. However, this was a brief stay of execution as Kingston did close in 1992, and those lucky enough to keep their jobs were moved to Farnborough. Later, when the time came, I was offered early retirement, allowing me to start volunteering.
At Brooklands Museum, I initially served time in each shed and hangar before choosing to train as a Concorde steward, allowing regular interaction with visitors. I also had an ambition to lead whole museum tours so, when volunteers were requested to train as Torchlight Tour leaders, I jumped at the chance. I particularly want to pay tribute to the late Steve Boom, the volunteer who knew everything about everything, and former events manager Donna Marshall (sadly no longer with the Museum) for their help and encouragement in this, because leading these tours has been the highlight of my time at Brooklands. There are so many interesting stories to tell, from Barnes Wallis and the Stratosphere Test Chamber to scaring the public in the tunnel with the spooky tale of Arthur Moorehouse! I do hope these tours can return when possible.